The Shadows(Black Dagger Brotherhood, book 13)(19) by J.R.Ward
As sundown happened outside his broken office windows, he kept bundling his cash, the stacks of ragged twenties kept together with rubber bands he’d stolen from the copier stations at FedEx Office. Didn’t look like much, but that was something the movies usually got wrong.
Mr. C leaned down and handful’d another fist of crumpled, stained Andrew Jacksons out of the Hefty bag on the floor. His men were required to empty their pockets every dawn here in the headmaster’s office, and even if it took him all day, nobody helped him count.
At this point, after nearly a year of being in business, he had roughly a hundred carriers working for him, the number floating up and down depending on how his recruiting efforts kept up with the Black Dagger Brotherhood’s killing efficiency. His idea for putting the Lessening Society all in one place, in this defunct prep school, had been smart. He could run the slayers like a military unit, housing them together, keeping them on a schedule, monitoring every breath and each sale personally.
There was a fuckload of rebuilding to be done.
Soon after the Omega had come to him and elevated him to Forelesser, he’d realized the promotion was for shit. The Society had had no money. No real guns or ammo. No crib. No organization and no plan. All that was different now: An unusual, uneasy alliance had solved the first problem, and that was taking care of the second and third. The fourth was on him.
At this point, all he had to do was keep shit gaining. Make sure his men were in line. Track the cash coming and going. Start collecting some war toys. Once he was probably armed?
He was going to slaughter the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and go down in history as the one who’d finally gotten the motherfucking job done.
Mr. C finished the count just as the last threads of light were draining out of the now-night sky. Getting up, he strapped on a pair of forties and put the bundles of cash into a duffel bag. The total was four hundred thousand dollars.
Not bad for forty-eight hours of work.
As he left, there was no reason to lock up anything, because access was everywhere. The headmaster’s office had windows like sieves and doors that hung off their hinges, and on a larger scale, the decrepit grounds of the rotting boarding school were lined by an iron fence with more broken sections than ones that were upright.
What kept people out?
The slayers that roamed the property constantly, sentries whose sole job was to jack anyone who came too close.
Good news? The place was rumored to be haunted, so when those punk-ass fifteen-year-olds tried to come walkin’, a couple of Omega tricks took care of that little problem. Bonus? His boys liked freakin’ the fools out, and it was better than killing the bitches. Dead bodies were a pain in the ass, and he didn’t want the human police involved.
After all, there was one and only one rule in the war against the vampires: No humans were welcome at the party.
Outside, Mr. C got into his black-on-black Lincoln Nav and turned around on the unmowed, dead grass. In the twilight, he could sense his boys moving over the grounds even though he couldn’t see them, the echo of the Omega’s blood in them better than GPS chips shoved up their asses.
So, yeah, he knew one of his crew had been lost last night. He’d felt the death as a shock under his pasty white skin. Fucking Brotherhood. And the dumb-ass who’d been slaughtered had had cash and drugs on him, so that was a net loss of at least five grand.
On any given night, he had twenty to twenty-five dealers out on the streets at a time, each working in shifts of four hours. Shifts were critical. Anything longer than two hundred and forty minutes and the slayers had too much asset on them, too much to lose if they got picked up by the police, rolled, or killed by the Brotherhood. Too much to get a bright idea over.
He’d learned how to handle his business from back in the day, when he’d still been human and a bit player on the street, looking to get large.
And the no bullshit truth? The Omega fucking needed him. Not the other way around.
The route he took to get to his supplier was different every time, and he was careful to track any cars behind him in case he was being followed by CPD or ATF. Likewise, there was no communication over the phone with his wholesaler—technological advances on the part of local and federal agents made that shit too risky. Plans were set or changed upon meeting, and if there was a no-show on either side, a contingency arrangement previously made meant they knew the when and where to reconnect.
None of his men knew the identity of his supplier, and he needed to keep it that way. He’d been where they were now—last thing he wanted was someone making a run at him.
And the fact that his wholesaler was a vampire?
This week’s exchange was scheduled for ninety minutes after sundown, out near, but not too close to, the quarry. It took him a good forty-five minutes to highway-travel it to the vicinity, and then it was a case of slow-as-you-go. The road into the thousand-acre parkland was a single-laner that was as well-traveled as an abandoned goat path, and maintained about as good as a crack house. Trees and underbrush choked the shoulder, turning the thing into a tunnel, and Wetlands warning signs glowed in his headlights.
He cut the illumination about two hundred yards in. As with his suppliers, he’d had the SUV modified to operate on blackout, and his eyes took only a second to adjust.
Thank you, Omega.
The turnoff he was looking for came a quarter of a mile up on the left, and he took the dirt path even slower. In the past, when he’d been a human and he’d pulled this exchange shit, his heart had always beat fast as he rolled up on it. Now, not only didn’t he have any cardiac equipment left in his chest, but there was no getting juiced in the slightest. Thanks to his boss’s modifications to his chassis and his brain chemistry, he could handle anything that went down, with or without conventional backup like guns and ammo.
So nah, he weren’t worried. Even though nearly a million dollars was about to switch hands between two criminal elements.
When he finally got to the meeting place, his “partner’s” Range Rover was already in the squat clearing, having crushed the saplings and bushes in a K-turn so it was headed out. As he pulled up driver’s side to driver’s side, they both put their windows down.
The vampire who ran the importing side of the business was straight-up Dracula: black hair brushed back, eyes that were like the laser sight on a Glock, mouth full of fangs, vibe like he enjoyed hurting people.
His brain functioned as Mr. C’s did, however.
“Four hundred,” Mr. C said, reaching over and snagging the duffel.
As he held it out the window, the vampire took it and traded an identical one. “Four hundred.”
“Forty-eight?” Mr. C asked.
“Forty-eight. One forty-nine and forty?”
They put their windows up at the same time and the vampire hit the gas, heading off without any lights on.
Mr. C pulled the same efficient about-face and followed the way out; the second they came to the paved lane, the supplier went left and he went right.
No witnesses. No complications. Nothing out of sync.
For two confirmed enemies on opposite sides of the war, they got along damn good.
Abalone, son of Abalone, re-formed in front of a historic house in one of Caldwell’s wealthiest zip codes.
This was the two hundred and seventy-first night he had come unto the beautiful manse.
It was daft to count, of course, but he couldn’t help it. With his shellan having passed, and his daughter on the verge of being presented to the glymera for mating, this position of his as First Adviser to Wrath, son of Wrath, was the only anniversary he had to look forward to.
There was not a night that he did not take pride in living up to his father’s legacy of service to the throne.
Or at least that was typically the case. For the first time, however, he felt as if he were letting both his sire and his King down.
Approaching the front door, he swallowed hard and fumbled with the copper key the Brotherhood had given him nearly a year ago. As he pushed his way into the mansion, he took a deep breath and smelled Murphy Oil Soap and beeswax and lemon.
It was the scent of wealth and distinction.
The King had yet to arrive, and Abalone took out his cell and checked to make sure he hadn’t missed any callbacks. None. Those three times he had dialed Wrath and left voice mails had not resulted in any return communication from the King.
Unable to remain still, he went into the parlor on the left with its soft yellow decor, life-size painting of a French king, and the newly arranged stuffed chairs that lined the walls like it was a luxury doctor’s waiting room. Signing into his computer at the desk by the archway, he could not sit down.
Wrath had reassumed the venerable tradition of taking audiences with civilians, and what had long been a vital connection between the rulers of the Race and their citizenry had evolved into a curious mix of the old and the new. Appointments were now arranged by text and e-mail. Confirmations were sent in the same manner. Inquires were cataloged on an Excel spreadsheet that could be sorted by date, issue, family, or resolution. Old Law statutes were likewise searchable not in their ancient tome form, but as part of a database created thanks to Saxton.
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